Friday, August 31, 2007

Radio One More Time: The Old Record Club

I am here, but I am not really here...

By the 80s, Jimmy Savile had long since completed the transformation from DJ to TV personality - obviously thanks to Jim'll Fix It, but also from promoting the benefits of train travel ("this is the age... [thumbs aloft] of the train") and of not being flung through a car windscreen ("clunk... click... every trip"). But he kept his hand in with dj work, too, presenting what in other hands would have been just a slightly dull Sunday lunchtime show working his way through old chart rundowns.

In Savile's hands, though, it became a surreal but slightly dull Sunday lunchtime chart rundown.

At first, the creation of a non-existent club setting - the titular Old Record Club - brought an element of oddness to the whole affair: who were these people, who gathered together on a Sunday (considering how difficult it was to get public transport anywhere during this age of the train at weekends) to play through the November 1964 top ten track-by-track? Was alcohol served? Was there a membership fee? Did the pretty young girls who sat next to Savile throughout the Club's operating hours actually exist, or were they part of a bizarre fantasy world that we were unwillingly being forced into enabling?

Stranger yet was the never-ending points battle. Sometimes, Savile would set the audience a question based around one of the songs - what, for example, would be the full title of the next song? Upon completion of the track, Jim would gurgle with delight revealing that the song in question had brackets in the title - (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction and, surmising that the audience would have not remembered the parenthetical portion, would delete millions of points from the listeners and award them to himself. It was never quite explained what these points were for - presumably, you could gather them up and the discover there was nothing of any use for which they could be exchanged, like the Green Shield Stamps which were popular at the same time.

Savile's love of marathon running then added another insane twist to proceedings. Like a proto-Liz Kershaw, Savile attempted to get away with pre-recording his show and passing it off as live. But in order to create the illusion of live radio, rather than adopting Liz's approach of getting friends to ring in to take part in competitions (that, presumably, would have introduced the extra confusion of trying to explain exactly what the points business was all about), Savile claimed that he was doing the programme at the same time as running a marathon. By, erm, having created a hologram - Hebert Hologram - to do the radio show.

We know, we know, holograms don't actually make sound, but in the context of a show set in a club which didn't exist, pre-recorded live transmissions by three-dimensional pictures of the presenter made perfect sense. Mark Thompson wouldn't allow it now, of course.

On a couple of occasions, Savile did actually do the show from a marathon course, though sadly never from the London Marathon. (That, in the days before the BBC had a sort-of-dedicated sports network, fell into Radio 2's remit; they'd broadcast live from a milkfloat which chased the stragglers through the red-brick pavements of the Docklands developments district.)

Eventually, Savile decided he was getting too old for Radio 1, and so retired from the Sunday old chart show to give a chance to a newcomer. He was replaced by the older Alan Freeman, who promptly hammered the boards over the door of the Old Record Club and revived his Pick of the Pops format.

[Radio One More Time]

1 comment:

Mike said...

any article containing the couplet "paranthetical portion" gets my vote!

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